by C.René Seah
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Living with Social Anxiety
This is a page dedicated to educating people about social anxiety, using my personal experiences as examples. I'm really passionate about spreading awareness on Social Anxiety Disorder [SAD] and hope people will have a better understanding of it. <3
[Please note that those affected by SAD [Social Anxiety Disorder] experiences it differently and my experiences does not apply to all.
What is Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is more than shyness. It's a fear that does not go away and affects everyday activities, self confidence, relationships and work or school life. Many people occasionally worry about social situations, but someone with social anxiety feels overly worried before, during and after them.
Hey! Thanks for popping by. I was diagnosed with moderate-severe social anxiety back in 2016. I want to help people understand more about SAD and how badly it can affect people and their everyday interactions. It's important that these are just my personal experiences, and others may have different experiences from my own. If you need more information, please consult a registered psychologist.
It would be impossible to break it down to every detail unless I wrote a whole book addressing each aspect, so everything is condensed, but I still hope that I can help shed some clarity and understanding on this anxiety disorder. Of course, please don't hesitate to shoot me a question about it if you're ever curious or in need of answers.
How does social anxiety affect you?
SAD causes me to overthink situations excessively, usually in a more negative light, and it's usually to my own detriment. It causes a lot of insecurity and self-loathing during the phase where thoughts wander, especially if there isn't an affirmation that things are actually okay. This isn't to be confused with self-pity. We don't pity ourselves, and may even have genuine confidence in the things we do, especially when we're alone. However, in social situations where we are surrounded by others or being observed, SAD overrides all that and we doubt ourselves and our abilities, and the impression we give off to an unreasonable extent.
I feel constantly pressured to look my best(alert and neat) for fear of looking rude, inadequate, stupid or ignorant. This could mean always feeling the need to look friendly in front of others even when you're not feeling the best. In my case, I have a naturally tired-angry expression and I constantly have my eyes wide and alert to show my interest in the topics or things in front of me. It may also come across in the form of always watching exactly what I say, and overanalysing the meaning behind every word used by myself or the listener.
Of course, as a human being, I don't always handle it perfectly and I might slip. I control my excitement and happiness so I always come across as calm and collected as much as possible. I feel guilty for having emotional outbursts, even happy ones. The consequence of doing this over a decade, is being unable to laugh as easily as my peers at jokes, and I come off even more cold and unphased.
Living with Social Anxiety is a balancing act, and it gets tiring.
How does one get Social Anxiety?
So from what I've read, and please don't quote me on this, I believe it can be gotten through childhood experiences, with having your opinions/feelings/initiatives invalidated or constantly turned down or made a mockery of by those around you and the people you were supposed to be able to trust (Family or close friends). I'm sure that there probably exist people who are more genetically predisposed to anxiety through hereditary genes, but I cannot give a proper account of that. Please consult a registered Psychologist to know more.
You can help prevent nurtured Social Anxiety by listening to what your children/ friends/ others have to say when they want to be heard. No matter what, their opinions are valid, and if you disagree with them, discuss them calmly and respectfully so they understand why you disagree. They should always feel they can have a safe space to talk things out with someone they can trust.
The fastest way to shatter confidence is to instil self-doubt in someone, especially when they're young and impressionable.
How to be kind to/befriend someone with SAD?
Affirmation is amazing for someone with SAD.
SAD is something that makes us constantly doubt ourselves in social situations, so telling us it's okay(and please only say it when you actually mean it, because if we ever find out you weren't okay with something we did, we will doubt any assurance you give us in the future, or at least, find it very hard to believe.), or even randomly mentioning you enjoy our company is comforting. We'll probably be very happy as well. We aren't dense, but even the most obvious signs of enjoyment aren't enough to remove that self-doubt that you think we're boring to be around.
Be straightforward and tell us what we did isn't okay if we offended you. Do it quickly too. We will appreciate it.
Our minds run wild when we sense things aren't going well and we want to calm that madness as soon as possible. Most of us want things to work out with you, so we want to work with you to fix the problem if it's something we did. We aren't perfect and still make mistakes, so someone mature will want to hear your honesty.
Don't play with our minds too much. We will ruminate badly.
I'm not saying we need fast replies. We don't and that's not the point, but if there has been something seriously discussed or a serious topic that was left in limbo, do try to address the main concerns quickly or we will think we said something wrong. Same with jokes that tease us or banter that's more mean (but in a friendly way). It will send us spiralling into self-loathing and panic.